Creativity is a concept surrounded by a number of beliefs and misconceptions. People believe it is limited to only a few; it declines seriously with age; and it is associated primarily with uniqueness or innovation or "artists" (Adams-Price 1998; McCormick and Plugge 1997; Runco 1996). However, research shows that creative thinking is a universal ability that can help adults manage satisfying lives and that is increasingly in demand in the workplace. This Digest reviews some of this research in order to identify ways to help adults discover and fulfill their creative potential.
Nature or Nurture?
What is creativity? Torrance's definition is often cited: sensitivity to problems, deficiencies, and gaps in information; making guesses, formulating hypotheses; evaluating and testing; and communicating results (McCracken 1998). Creativity is a complex of traits, skills, and capacities, including the ability to work autonomously, curiosity, unconventional thinking, openness to experience, and tolerance of ambiguity (Adams-Price 1998; Albert 1996). Highly creative adults exhibit deep knowledge of and a strong bond with their subject matter, as well as intrinsic motivation (Amabile 1996; Keegan 1996).
Creativity research has focused on personality traits of creative individuals (Amabile 1996). This emphasis has led to the assumptions that creativity is largely innate or immutable and creative people are distinct from noncreative people. Recently, more attention is being paid to social and environmental factors that influence creativity. Newer definitions describe creativity as the confluence of cognitive processes, knowledge, thinking style, personality, motivation, and environment over the life span (Adams-Price 1998; Sasser-Coen 1993). It is also associated with the creation of meaning and the drive for psychic wholeness ("Creativity in Later Life" 1991), a way to address and resolve dissatisfactions and improve the quality of life (Adams-Price 1998), and a...